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Understanding the History & Context of US Immigration Policy: Part II – The Militarization of the US/Mexican Border

November 29, 2018

In Part I of this series we provided some background information on the asylum seekers who were tear gassed by US Customs and Border agents last Sunday. In today’s post we want to look at the history of the US/Mexican border and how it has become so militarized,

The desire on the part of the US power structure to expand the empire has been part of the experiment known as the US from the beginning. In regards to the US southern border, the US has always been engaged in what insurgent journalist and author John Ross called the ongoing “annexation of Mexico.” (The Annexation of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the IMF, by John Ross.)

Beginning with the annexation of the Mexican territory known now as Texas, the US has always been working to gobble up more real estate. The US was not content with just the annexation of Texas, but using the power of the military, forced Mexico to concede about a third of their northern territory, it what is called the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Like current dynamics, the Mexican-American War between 1846 – 1848, was a military and diplomatic exercise in White Supremacy.

One of the major consequences of the mid-19th century US annexation of Mexican territory was the fact that all of the Mexican people who lived in the territory taken by the US endured racist treatment from US citizens who never saw them as having legitimate claim to their lands. Mexicans in the annexed territory last thousands of acres of land to theft, intimidation and forced removal.While many in states along the now US/Mexican border embrace the food and other cultural “benefits” of conquest, Latinos/Latinx people have never been accepted or treated as equals.

The Mexican Revolution in the early part of the 20th Century was also cause for alarm amongst US expansionists, since revolutionaries like Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa were challenging the oligarchy and spreading subversive ideas like owning land communally. The US did not sit idly by and for nearly a year (from 1916 – 1917), the US military sent thousands of troops to Mexico to try to apprehend Francisco Pancho Villa. The real threat from Villa was that he threatened US business interests in the northern part of Mexico, something that the US power structure found unacceptable. The US military never apprehended Villa, but they did send a strong message and put in place a long-standing military/corporate dynamic that continues to the present.

When the Rockefeller oil empire (Standard Oil) was expanding, the US military collaborated to continue to provide access to petroleum deposits that were discovered south of the US border, in Mexican territory. However, the Mexican government nationalized its oil in the 1930s, leading the big US oil barons unhappy with the loss of revenue. This dynamic coincided with various US immigration policies that kicked out Mexican nationals during the depression and then allowed them to come back and work during the end of WWII through what was called the Bracero program. However, despite the fact that the US government immigration policy allowed Mexicans to work in the US, it didn’t translate into a broad acceptance of Mexicans living in the US. Ultimately, the US policy from WWI to the Carter administration was to see the US southern border policy as a mechanism of labor control.

However, beginning in the 1970s the US evolved its border policy and made significant changes, such as the so called US war on Drugs, where the US/Mexican border was now seen as a drug interdiction issue. The US Customs and Border Patrol was beefed up and furthered militarized to deal with the border as a drug trans-shipment point.

A second major issue that had begun in the late 1970s was the US role in suppressing the popular movements in Central America. The US-backed counterinsurgency wars, what the Reagan administration referred to as Low Intensity Conflict, caused massive displacement of civilians from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Hundreds of thousands of political refugees from these countries attempted to come to the US in the 1980s, which ultimately led to the US Sanctuary Movement. The Reagan administration was obsessed with Central America and part of that obsession was to further militarize the US/Mexican border.

Always under the pretext of fighting the War on Drugs, the US Border agents received more money in the 1980s, in order to expand personnel and to purchase better weapons, helicopters and the regular use of surveillance equipment. This increase in the militarization of the southern US border is well documented in Timothy Dunn’s book, The Militarization of the US-Mexican Border 1978 – 1992.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed between the US, Mexican and Canadian government in 1992, signaled another drastic change in policy at the US/Mexican border. What NAFTA did was to essentially allowed businesses and the goods they produced to move freely across the US/Mexican border, but not Mexican civilians. NAFTA gutted to US manufacturing industry, moving many plants to Mexico and at the same time the US sent cheap subsidized corn to Mexico, which led to the demise of millions of small Mexican farmers who could not compete with US corn prices. Many of the Mexican farmers fled north to the US, thus demonstrating once again that US policy in the Mexico is what is driving the massive immigration crisis. The political cartoon below, accurately depicts this dynamic as it relates to NAFTA.

The last two major changes in recent decades that has impacted the US/Mexican border and resulted in its ongoing militarization were the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the US and Plan Merida.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the US renewed the political and ideological call to strengthen US borders, which primarily meant the southern US border. The Bush Administration used this opportunity to create what is called the Department of Homeland Security, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE activity during the Bush and Obama administrations, resulted in the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico. The ideological reasoning behind the deportations is that these undocumented immigrants are a threat to US national security. This same ideological justification continues with the Trump administration, even though it has never had anything to do with security.

The last major point to make about the militarization of the US/Mexican border is the impact that Plan Merida has had on creating more violence in Mexico, which has forced millions more to seek safety in the US. Plan Merida was announced in 2007, but signed into law by the Obama administration under the guise of fighting the war on drugs. However, there is no evidence that there is any reduction of drug trafficking into the US from Mexico, but there is plenty of evidence in the increased political violence in Mexico, resulting in the displacement of large numbers of Mexican civil society. The video below, provides a brief outline of the consequences of Plan Merida.

 

In Part III of this series, we will examine the reaction of so many people who were horrified by the tear gassing of asylum seekers and why this reaction demonstrates how little people in the US understand about the history of US treatment of immigrants.

 

Understanding the History & Context of US Immigration Policy: Part I – US violence against immigrants at the Border

November 28, 2018

On Sunday, the whole world watched as the caravan of people from Central America, who are seeking asylum, were tear gassed by US Customs and Border Patrol agents who had been ordered to do so from by the Trump Administration.

People in the US and around the world are condemning the tear gassing of civilians, which also included children. Some are saying this is a war crime, but the fact is that while tear gas is banned from use in warfare, the use of tear gas against civilians is a common practice, especially in the US.

Tear gas was used against people in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, after the community rose up against the police after a cop killed Michael Brown. Tear gas is used frequently by law enforcement agencies when people rise up and demand justice no matter what the cause is.

I have witness the use of tear gas at the 2001 protest against the Free Trade Area of the Americans in Quebec City, Canada and at the 2008 RNC protest in Minneapolis. If you have ever experienced being exposed to tear gas, you know that it is something that is very disorienting. Those exposed to tear gas will have a hard time seeing, a hard time breathing and you are likely to have tears and snot running down your face. Tear gas also causes people to vomit. Thus, you can imagine how the asylum seekers felt at the US border, when they were teared gassed, the confusion and terror they must have felt.

However, beyond the outrage that many people are feeling, most of the commercial media coverage is not providing any context for why those who are seeking asylum, often referred to as people in the “immigrant caravan,” are coming to the US in the first place.

A friend and colleague in the struggle, Fermin Valle, wrote a piece about the asylum seekers and they communicated with him why people have come to the US: 

They wanted to make clear to the world that they are chasing a dream of a better life, and that they left their country in search of jobs to feed their families and children, to buy medicine for sick loved ones, to escape the violence of gangs and drug cartels, and maybe even to find opportunities to send their kids to college.

In addition to what individuals who are coming to the US seeking asylum are saying, we need to develop an important analysis of the root causes of why so many are attempting to enter the US, especially from Mexico and Central America.

There are some really good resources that provides this kind of background information, resources that we recommend. First, there is always solid analysis provided by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Here is a recent piece they put together called 9 Questions (and Answers) about the Central American Migrant Caravan.  Another solid piece of analysis from WOLA is entitled, “Come Back Later”: Challenges for Asylum Seekers Waiting at Ports of Entry. One additional piece from WOLA is, The US Government’s 2018 Border Data Clearly Shows Why the Trump Administration is on the Wrong Track

Another great resource for understanding the context of why so many from Central America are trying to enter the US if from the group A Project for Teaching Change is entitled, Teaching Central America

Public Citizen provides important information and analysis on both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and why those trade policies have displaced so many from the region.

Lastly, there are also some good resources through the American Friends Service Committee, such as their online section on US-Mexico Border Militarization  and Defending Immigrant Rights

Who profits from Asylum Seekers being Tear Gassed?

The security industry is vast and highly profitable in the US and after September 11, 2001, it has gone off the charts. One clear example is the Florida-based Safariland Group.

Safariland Group is the company that supplied US Customs and Border agents with tear gas that was used against the asylum seekers on Sunday. The CEO of the Safariland Group is Warren Kanders, who has been CEO of the company since 1996. Kanders is worth $2.2 billion and he is also involved with the Claus Corporation, PC Group Inc., the Highlands Acquisition Corp. and DHS Techonologies LLC.

The Safariland Group is a one-stop shop for protest repression, since the corporation controls 25 individually branded policing and security sub-companies. The company started off as a gun holster business in 1964 and then merged with Body Armor in 1969.

When Kanders became CEO, the former investment banker gain a controlling share of Body Armor’s stock and then changed the name to Armor Holdings Inc. Armor Holdings Inc. then acquired Defense Tech and added in the company’s portfolio such items as pepper spray, tear gas, distraction devices, flameless expulsion grenades, and specialty munitions.

In 1998, under Kanders leadership, the company bought up Mace Security International, which at the time was a major player in the tear gas manufacturing business.

Then 9/11 came, so Kanders decided to align himself with homeland security and joined the Board of Directors at the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, which provides grants to government law enforcement agencies to purchase items like tear gas and other anti-riot resources, all in the name of fighting domestic terrorism.

In Part II, we will look at the history of the US/Mexican border and how it has become more militarized since the US expanded its empire with the war/invasion of Mexico.

DeVos money, AmplifyGR, a new brewery and the future of Southeast Grand Rapids

November 27, 2018

In September, MLive posted a pretty solid article about what AmplifyGR was up to these days, especially since it has been over a year now that they cancelled the community forums they were hosting, meetings where the DeVos funded project had been receiving a great deal of push back

At the second AmplifyGR community forum, the director of the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation created entity said, “even if 70% of the community opposed this, we would just have to get back up and move forward and do it better.” 

AmplifyGR has indeed, moved forward. The organization has moved forward by avoiding the messiness of having community forums and decided to turn to what they refer to has more personal way to engage the community. In the MLive article published in September, AmplifyGR’s director John Ipple stated in that article that the mission of the organization was to “promote prosperity in a part of Grand Rapids that hasn’t shared in the economic rebound unfolding elsewhere in the city.” Such a statement is consistent with the DeVos philosophy of capitalism, but we should always ask ourselves, prosperity for whom? 

That same MLive article also pointed out that AmplifyGR has been giving out food baskets, doing turkey give-a-ways and promoting more local business development in the area. The MLive article also quotes Fran Dalton, with the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association who said, “she views Amplify as “a real possible resource and benefit to the community,” but contends the group does not want to pursue its development efforts “under the watchful eye of the community.”

In February, we posted an article about how AmplifyGR was hosting Start Garden’s 100 Ideas project, where people could come and pitch business ideas. A group of Start Garden selected people would vote on the best ideas and give $20,000 to each of those projects.

One of the projects submitted was by two African American men who wanted to start a brewery in the Boston Square area. Why not, white folks shouldn’t be the only ones profiting off of the creation of new breweries, right? 

However, it is worth looking a bit at the connections and relationships that made all of this happen, since it seems that hose involved are connected. So, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation created AmplifyGR, which is partnering with the Rockford Construction Company, which technically purchased the 32 properties in the AmplifyGR targeted area. Start Garden, which is also a DeVos family creation, hosts a “let’s fund some business ideas event.” One of the men involved in the Boston Square Brewing Company project, which received $20,000 from Start Garden at an event hosted at AmplifyGR, also works for Rockford Construction. Terry Rostic, co-owner of the Boston Square Brewing Company, is the Project Manager of Human Resources at Rockford Construction.

But, there is more to this than just the interlocking connections between all the players involved. There have been many people from the African American community that have been meeting and discussing issues around why the Southeast part of the city is the least developed. One group, which goes by the hashtag #SEGR on Facebook, has been looking at ways to prevent or minimize the effects of gentrification in the the part of Grand Rapids with the largest African American population.

I reached out to Rev. Jerry Bishop, who is involved with the group #SEGR. Rev. Bishop is the pastor of LifeQuest, which is also based in the southeast part of the city. I asked him what he thought about the new brewery that was announced for the Boston Square area and this was his response:

In short, it’s not in any way a vendetta against the Visionaries for the brewery. Rather, its a consistent position of wanting less alcohol/vices in that area.  More than a year ago a meeting was held on our campus with staff from Amplify and a line up of urban pastors that agreed that Olivers Liquor Store should be removed if a authentic redevelopment was to happen, much like how Speedy Mart was eliminated on Wealthy and Fuller.  It would be disingenuous to advocate for the removal of Olivers and then usher in a brewery. There has been more than one discussion on this.

This comment also gets to another aspect of having an entity like AmplifyGR plant itself in a neighborhood which it has not been a part of and yet it has purchased 32 properties for redevelopment. The question is, who gets to decide what happens in southeast part of Grand Rapids? During the larger AmplifyGR forums that were being held in 2017, several people were promoting the idea that DeVos/AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction could just give over all the land they purchased, which could allow the neighborhood to put it in a Community Land Trust and then take the time to let the people who live there decide what to do with the land. Some might even say this is a forum of reparations, where those from the white community who have benefited from white supremacy and capitalism for so long, could pay reparations to the black community and let them do as they see fit. Why do white people and white run organization always think they know what is best?

Lastly, it is also important to note that several members of the DeVos family and specifically Doug & Maria DeVos (which funded the creation of AmplifyGR) recently gave money to Cindy Hyde-Smith (see below), the Senator from Mississippi, even after she made racist comments about going to a public hanging and off handed remarks about supporting voter suppression. This is no marginal issue and it should be discussed openly, especially since Doug & Maria DeVos has funded and created AmplifyGR to push their own agenda in the southeast part of the city. More importantly, the DeVos family contributes millions to the Republican Party and the policies they have imposed on the public are disproportionately oppressive for black communities.

What if this dynamic and the other issues raised here were discussed in an open forum, where there could be more accountability? Transparency and accountability doesn’t just happen, we have to make it happen and then support those doing the work to bring these issues to light. DeVos money can back businesses by black people, but they will never support black people fighting for racial justice and an end to white supremacy!

Learning Disability Justice: A Personal Story

November 26, 2018

I just finished reading an amazing book entitled, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, by Leah Lakshimi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

The book is written by someone from the disability community, specifically about the kind of work that the disability community does for each other. The analysis that is provided throughout the book is open surpassed by the powerful stories of how people in the disability community to the work of caring for each other.

Care Work is also a statement that counters the dominate ableist narrative about how able-bodied people are the ones who care for those with disabilities. The book is inspiring and at the same time it challenged my own ableist views and even my own experiences as a child, in my family and my organizing work.

I didn’t see myself as someone with a disability

For me, one aspect of how normalized the ableist narrative is, was how I identified myself as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania. I grew up in a hyper-patriarchal family, where my father dictated everything in the family. We had a family business and from a very early age I was required to assist my father with delivering milk to people’s homes. In addition, our family was extremely into sports and my older brother and I were expected to participated in playing football, baseball and basketball. If we didn’t play or didn’t play well, it was a sign of weakness.

It was in this context that at the age of 8, I was diagnosed with having what we were told at the time, “crocked legs.” When I put my legs together, my feet would be about 4 inches apart, and when I ran my knees would hit each other, often becoming raw and sometimes bleeding.

This diagnosis ended up with me going to see a specialist in Elizabethtown, PA. The specialist worked out of a place called, The Cripple Children’s Hospital. This specialist determined that the problem was my feet, so for several years I was forced to wear “corrective shoes,” do exercises every night and eventually I had to wear these corrective shoes that had cables attached to them leading to a belt that I had to wear around my waist. I even had to wear these shoes with cables to bed every night.

For the next four years I was forced to wear these corrective shoes with cables and had to endure constant teasing from my classmates at school and even from my brother and father who saw my condition as a sign of weakness.

At the age of 12 I went to see another specialist who said that wearing these shoes and doing the exercises I had done for four years were all for nothing. The problem was not my feet, but my knees. Within six months it was determined that I was to have surgery, where three large staples were inserted into the insides of each knee and left there for a  year. After surgery, I spent 3 weeks at the Cripple Children’s Hospital and was in a ward with 25 other kids, all of which had conditions that were worse than mine.

All of this was happening during my years of puberty, which exacerbated my insecurity and awkwardness. I couldn’t play sports for the year that the staples were in my knees, which gave me a sense of shame because of the pressure in my family to be physical and play sports.

Having staples in my knees for a year “worked” and End finished off my High School years play ball and working full time for the family, before I eventually left town and came to Michigan.

My Younger Brother was disabled

I had two bothers growing up and my younger brother contracted spinal meningitis as an infant, which resulted in serious brain damage that has affected his entire life.

My parents were told early on that they could not care for a child with my brother’s condition. When my brother was 8 he was placed in an institution in Butler, Pennsylvania, about a 3 hour drive from where we lived at the time. This meant that we would only visit him once a month, since growing up in a working class family limited our ability to afford the cost and the time to see him.

However, after three years, my brother was moved to an institution that was closer to home, only a 60 minute driver. My brother was at this second institution for only one year, because every time we would go visit, my mother would discover that he was wearing other people’s clothing or he was missing a tooth and staff had no idea that this was happening.

My parents made the decision to bring him home and my mother made the commitment to be his primary care giver. However, my mother had no formal training and often projected he worldview onto my brother. My father was so much worse. My father would be embarrassed by my brother if we were ever in public, he rarely did any care giving and he often used verbal violence and at times physical violence against my brother. My father was a bastard.

Growing up with a brother with the kind of disability he had, certainly impacted how I saw myself in the world and it did teach me how the world sees those with disabilities…….as disposable people.

However, it wasn’t until I moved out of my parents house and became an adult that my own experiences have forced me to learn more and to move closer to what disability justice is.

Participating in Care Work

Over the years I have worked as a direct care giver to people with varying disabilities and with several different agencies. I have always valued this work and found it meaningful, although many of the people I have worked with were not committed to having a relationship with the people that they worked for and the agencies I have worked for often valued profits over people. More over, the biggest problem that I have encountered in doing this work is those doing the work often see themselves as the savior of the people they were working with.

This White Savior politics, particularly in West Michigan where I have done this care work, was often run by Christian organizations. These religious organizations would normalize certain behaviors for the population they were “serving”, with things like having people go to jobs, go to church and embrace a culture of pity. There certainly were people who developed relationships with the people they worked with and tended to treat people better, with more humanity. Unfortunately, there was little opportunity to learn about disability justice or to practice it. There was no real intellectual challenge to the ableist practices and no space for exploring or even being exposed to disability justice for those of us who worked in these spaces. However, there were plenty of examples of how those in the disability community practiced care work with each other. This practice, within the disability community, was often seen as cute and not as an opportunity to learn from the community these organizations claimed to be serving.

Trying to Learn Disability Justice

Over the years as I have been involved in organizing work, I have been challenged by and mentored by people who are part of the Disability Justice movement. Those of us who are organizers and who do not see ourselves as part of the disability community, need to organize in such a way that makes what we do accessible to all bodies. We must stop being part of ableist supremacy and be in solidarity with those whom the dominant culture sees as disposable or a burden. We must see that the Disability Justice Movement is essential in the struggle for collective liberation.

I am grateful for those who remind me, inform me, challenge me and make me accountable for the work I do in this community and to make sure that it is always responsive to the desires of those who have been a challenging inspiration.

False Solutions in the New Gilded Age: Jeff Bezos just gave the Grand Rapids Community Rebuilders $5 million, which is what he make in 30 minutes

November 21, 2018

On Tuesday, I received a Media Advisory from the Grand Rapids-based group Community Rebuilders. The Media Advisory stated that the organization had received a $5 million donation from the Bezos Day One Fund, which is the charitable wing of the wealthiest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos.

$5 million dollars is a great deal of money and it will certainly contribute to the work of Community Rebuilders. The Media Advisory also quoted the Executive Director of Community Rebuilders, Vera Beech, who stated:

“Community Rebuilders is a hard-working organization, and we’re not afraid to take risks to support families experiencing homelessness. This grant will allow us to do so on an even bigger scale to more quickly reach our community’s goal of eliminating homelessness in Kent County.”

Now, I’m not questioning the success stories that Community Rebuilders has, in terms of actually helping people transition from being homeless to living in a home that they can afford. What I am questioning is the goal of Community Rebuilders, which is to eliminate homelessness in Kent County.

People who experience homelessness end up in that predicament for numerous reasons, such as people dealing with addiction, people struggling with mental health, people losing their jobs, health care costs, etc. However, we also know that there is no real reason for people to actually be homeless, since homelessness is really a byproduct of capitalism.

The economic system of capitalism is designed to make a small number of people disgustingly rich and the rest of the population at varying levels of economic insecurity. For example, the wealthiest man on the planet right now, Jeff Bezos, is estimated to be worth about $132 Billion as of May 1, 2018. Now, $132 Billion is so big that most of us can’t even wrap our heads around what that means, plus Bezos wealth was a mere $99 Billion on January 1, 2018. This means that Bezos’ wealthy increased by $33 Billion in 120 days.

The Independent news entity, Democracy Now!, broke down what Bezos’ wealth expansion means during that 120 period. “If you divide that difference by the 120 days in that period, you find that he made $275 million a day. Divide that by 24 hours in a day to get about $11.5 million per hour, the equivalent of roughly $191,000 per minute or — the clincher — $3,182 every second.” 

If we put that amount of money into perspective, the $5 million dollar grant that Community Rebuilders just received is roughly what Jeff Bezos made from January 1st to May 1st in 30 minutes.

Gilded Giving

People might remember from US History classes that the later part of the 19th Century was referred to as the Gilded Age, since there was a massive separation between the grotesquely rich and everyone else. It could be argued that we live in another Gilded Age, with the less than 1% of the population controlling most of the wealth.

The Institute for Policy Studies just released a new report that also speaks to the problem of living in another Gilded Age. Their report, Gilded Giving 2018: Top-Heavy Philanthropy and Its Risks to the Independent Sector, investigates the problem of society’s reliance on the charity of the wealthiest people. The report states:

Our charitable sector is currently experiencing a transition from broad-based support across a wide range of donors to top-heavy philanthropy increasingly dominated by a small number of very wealthy individuals and foundations. This has significant implications for the practice of fundraising, the role of the independent nonprofit sector, and the health of our larger democratic civil society.

This brings us back to the $5 million that Community Rebuilders received from the Bezos Foundation. The problem with accepting the fact that people like Jeff Bezos are allowed to make $11.5 million dollars in an hour, while a large percent of the population is one paycheck away from losing everything and record numbers experiencing poverty, is that it prevents us from questioning how so few can be so wealthy, while so many are so poor.

Relying on the handout of the super rich is a false solution

The reality is that Community Rebuilders can never end homelessness in Kent County. Relying on the charity of people like Jeff Bezos is a false solution. As long as our society accepts the current wealth gap, which allows Jeff Bezos to control the amount of wealth that he does, then we can never end homelessness, poverty or any other major social inequality.

Lastly, I would argue that as long as the economic system of capitalism remains, we will continued to see the non-profit world rely on the donations of the wealthiest people on the planet. And as long as we rely of the “charity” of the wealthiest people on the planet we will never allow ourselves to see the inherent contradiction in an economic system that is designed to reward so few, while so many suffer unnecessarily.

 

 

Dark Money: DeVos family supports Michigan State Senator who has introduced a bill to conceal nonprofit donors

November 20, 2018

Another election cycle has passed us and one of the most instructive aspects of the 2018 election cycle was how much money was contributed to elect politicians and support ballot initiatives.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the 2018 election was the most expensive in state history, with $291.1 million in contributions for the ballot initiatives and the state’s races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, Michigan Senate, Michigan House, Michigan Supreme Court, U.S. Senate and U.S. House. These numbers will go up, once all of the contributions have been tailed, which will easily push the amount contributed over $300 million. 

In addition, Michigan also set a record for the amount of money raised by Political Action Committees (PACs). Again, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network put PAC money raised in 2018 at $80 million (for the top 150 PACs). 

We have reported in the past about how the DeVos family paid for legislation that allowed PACs to double the amount of money they could raised for candidates. 

Now, new legislation has been introduced that would effectively ban any state or local public agency from requesting information about supporters of nonprofit organizations, including nonprofit groups that spend money to influence voters in the weeks before an election. On November 8, Republican State Senator Mike Shirkey introduced SB 1176

SB 1176 does not have any co-signers as of yet and according to the State’s Legislature page the bill has been referred to the Michigan Competitiveness Committee.

The Michigan Competitiveness Committee is chaired by Rep. Mike Shirkey and four other State Senators: Jim Stamas (34th District), David Robertson (14th District), John Proos (21st District) and Rebekah Warren (18th District). All of them are Republicans, except for Warren.

In looking at who have been some of the major campaign contributors during their time as a state lawmaker, one name is pretty consistent. The DeVos family has contributed $71,000 to Rep. Shirkey since 2011

In addition, the DeVos family has contributed the following amount since 2011 to two of the other three Republican Senators, who also sit on the Michigan Competitiveness Committee:

Sen. John Proos – $9000 from the DeVos family 

Sen. David Robertson – $7000 rom the DeVos family 

Of course there is nothing new about the fact that the DeVos family contributes significantly to Republican candidates. However, what is important is which candidates they contribute to, which committees they sit on and which candidates either propose legislation or sign onto legislation that will ultimately benefit the DeVos family. The DeVos family is very strategic and contributes money to politicians that will ultimately embrace their financial and ideological agenda, like Sen. Mike Shirkey.

Patriarchy Pushes Back: DeVos-led Education Department provides more protections for those accused of sexual assault with Title IX revisions

November 19, 2018

We have seen the power of the MeToo Movement in recent years, with more and more women finding the courage and the support to confront and name their abusers.

However, so many of society’s institutions still operate within a framework of patriarchy, where the normalization of male dominance reigns supreme. We see this within religious institutions, the legal system, the military industrial complex and the entertainment industrial complex.

The most recent institutional push back against feminism is the US Department of Education’s revision of Title IX. According to a November 16 Press Release

“Throughout this process, my focus was, is, and always will be on ensuring that every student can learn in a safe and nurturing environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “That starts with having clear policies and fair processes that every student can rely on. Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it, while ensuring a fair grievance process. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are the very essence of how Americans understand justice to function.”

A Washington Post article published last Friday, says that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sees the new Title IX revisions as a balancing of the rights of sexual assault survivors and those who are accused of sexual assault. 

As we have reported in previous Betsy DeVos Watch articles, the Education Secretary has been providing significant input from anti-feminist organizations across the country, in what DeVos was calling Title IX “listening session.” These groups have providing DeVos with a framework to influence the Title IX revisions, a framework that is essentially anti-feminist and one that embraces patriarchal values.

For instance, the group The National Coalition for Men, has an insidious video on their homepage, which asks the question, Is Feminism a Hate Group? 

Another group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which believes that college campuses have an inherently “liberal bias,” released a statement on  Friday in response to the new Title IX guidelines. FIRE states

The proposed regulations are a marked improvement over the previous guidance in a number of important ways.

By taking the rights of both complainants and accused students seriously, these proposed regulations make important strides toward ensuring that complaints of sexual misconduct will be neither ignored nor prejudged.

The proposed regulations define sexual harassment in accordance with established Supreme Court precedent, eliminating the confusion that has led institutions nationwide to adopt overly broad definitions of sexual harassment that threaten student and faculty speech.

The anti-feminist group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) wrote about the new Title IX ruling, “The rules come after years of rising pressure on universities to better respond to allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct. They land at a time when the #MeToo movement brought increased public scrutiny and accountability to harassment and assault. This proposal, by contrast, pushes the pendulum in the reverse direction.

SAVE works closely with the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, which makes the defense of those accused of sexual assault their primary focus. 

Another group that has had Betsy DeVos’ ear in the process of rewriting Title IX is the Coalition to End Domestic Violence. This group has also pushed back against the “feminist bias” on campuses, believes in the “preservation of family” (which is code for the preservation of Patriarchy) and promotes the notion that there are too many false allegations against men accused of sexual assault. 

Lastly, the group Families Advocating for Campus Equality (founded by parents of students accused of sexual assault), which has yet to post a response to the new Title IX guidelines, does feature an article on their main page with the following headline: Finally Powerful Women are speaking up for the Rights of Men.  That headline sums up the essence of the push back from Patriarchy to feminism and the recent MeToo Movement.

To view a 1 page summary of the Department of Education’s new Title IX guidelines, click here

To review the proposed Title IX rule’s section-by-section summary, click here.

To read the entire Title IX document changes, go here